For 120,000 diabetics, a simple pin-prick blood test is the difference between life and death. It tells them their blood glucose level, and indicates how much insulin they need to avoid falling ill.

News that a Government agency wants to switch to a new system of testing is "frightening" many with the disease, including Auckland fashion stylist Pebbles Hooper.

Pharmac said changing the brand of meters would save an estimated $10 million a year. However, a new type of insulin pump is likely to cost Pharmac an extra $3 million a year.

Hooper felt she'd been dealt the short straw when she was diagnosed with diabetes aged 19. Now 22, she'd learned to manage her illness but said the prospect of learning to use a new glucose meter - and the concern about whether it would work as well as the one she used - was a stress she and others with diabetes shouldn't have to go through. Hooper, who has non-preventable Type One diabetes, didn't see the need to change blood-test kits.

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"Changing it will cause huge disruptions for people, especially for families with children," she said. "I know loads of people who it would be a real nightmarish decision to change everything."

Diabetes NZ president Chris Baty said: "There has been a very very strong emotional reaction to this. Essentially they are taking everything known away from people who are required to do blood testing to manage their diabetes. I do think a much better job could have been done to manage the change."

Some people were frightened by the proposed change and needed assurance. She also felt concerned for older people.

Pharmac medical director Dr Peter Moodie said switching to new diabetes blood glucose meters and test strips would save about $10 million a year, but a change to new insulin pumps for the 600 or so people expected to use them would cost the agency an extra $3 million a year.

"The proposals are in a consumer consultation phase at present. No decisions have been made and all feedback will be considered."